Geico 500

Brendan Gaughan
Getty Images

Brendan Gaughan ready to mix it up with big teams at Talladega

Leave a comment

Brendan Gaughan hasn’t been competed in a NASCAR race since the Daytona 500 in February, but that doesn’t have him worried for today’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

“I’m no rustier than anybody else,” Gaughan said this week ahead of his start for Beard Motorsports.

The 44-year-old Gaughan, who hasn’t competed full-time since 2017, noted that “nobody has raced a superspeedway race since the last time I raced one.”

That race saw Gaughan pilot the No. 62 Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish as he earned 30 owner points for Beard Motorsports. It was enough to ensure Gaughan would be able to sttart today’s race in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated qualifying for races.

“We’re excited that we were able to stay in the top 40 in points,” Gaughan said. “We were sweating that for a bit, especially after Bristol (on May 31). I said earlier that I love Tommy Baldwin and B.J. McLeod – they’re my buddies and I like them a lot. After Bristol, I started to go ‘uh-oh’. … Who would have thought we’d be sitting here in the world the way it is now and that seventh-place finish at Daytona for the No. 62 pays dividends yet again, and kept us locked in for Talladega.”

Sunday’s race will be Gaughan’s 14th for Beard Motorsports. The part-time team, which gets chassis from Richard Childress Racing and engines from ECR, has just one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw, one part-time employee, car chief Drew Mickey, and two mechanics who help out on race weekends.

Despite the lack of man power, Gaughan is not to be overlooked on superspeedways.

“When we show up, we’re not some team that everybody goes, ‘Oh boy, watch out for that one,'” Gaughan said in a media release. “When we walk in that place, people want to work with us. Now, our first year and even our second year a little bit – I had to go up to people and remind them a bit and say, ‘Hey, hey, Jimmie (Johnson), don’t forget, I’ve got a big-thumping ECR motor and a good RCR-built Chevrolet. Remember, I’ve got good stuff.’ Now, we show up to the racetrack and I’ve got guys from other manufacturers going, ‘Hey, do you have to play in the Chevy games or are you a free agent?’

“Then I’ve got Chevy inviting us to play in their reindeer games and say, ‘Hey, you’re a Chevy, you’re here with us.’ It feels great to know that this little bitty team, when we show up now, people come and find us and say, ‘Hey, we’ll work with you. We know how good you are.’”

Unlike his previous starts for Beard Motorsports, the team hasn’t had a practice to help dial-in the car before Gaughan rolls off the grid from 39th.

“It affects us probably more than most teams,” Gaughan said. “Most teams at least have some sort of an engineering staff, at least have some sort of equipment to pull that race car down repeatedly to make sure they’re going to hit their travels. Our race team does not. It’s difficult, also, to get time in other peoples’ shops right now with the way NASCAR has the teams sequestered. … I do know that it got pulled down, I do know they were able to get some time on the pull down rig. But not as much as others or other races we’ve had. …

“But thankfully, for us, the equalizer is that there is going to be a competition caution and I have a feeling the No. 62 team will be very graciously looking forward to that competition caution if we happen to miss our travels, hit the splitter too hard or anything like that.”

Gaughan believes the early stages of the 188-lap race will see many drivers, including him, “practicing” moves to see what their cars are capable of.

“The way this thing is now with the organizations that all work so well together, I think you’ll be able to see people probably practice those together, maybe even orchestrate some of them during the race if they get a calm setting to maybe say ‘Hey, can I see what mine looks like in the front versus the back’,” Gaughan said. “Maybe some teams will work with each other to do that. I think you’re going to see maybe a little bit of coordinated effort team-wise and some people will get it faster than others, just like anything else in life. You’ll have a lot of laps to be able to try and practice a few things if you put yourself in the right situation.”

Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, forecast and more

Leave a comment

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega Sunday for its first superspeedway race since the Daytona 500 in February.

Teams will get their first experience with a different superspeedway rules package from what they had at Daytona.

Martin Truex Jr. starts first and and Denny Hamlin starts second.

Here are the important details for Sunday’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Astronaut Doug Hurley on board the International Space Station will give the command to start engines via video at 3:13 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to be waved at 3:24 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 8 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 2:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 3:05 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by the 313th United States Army Band at 3:06 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) around the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

TV/RADIO: Fox will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 3 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. Its broadcast begins at 2 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 92 degrees and 43% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Denny Hamlin won last Sunday’s race at race in Miami, beating Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney.

LAST RACE AT Talladega: Ryan Blaney beat Ryan Newman in a photo finish.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCHING UP TO SPEED WITH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

Friday 5: Despite 2 wins in a row, Toyota boss has sharp words for teams

Stewart-Haas, Penske employees tested positive for COVID-19

Aric Almirola could tie Dale Jr.’s top-10 record at Talladega

Brad Keselowski: ‘You have to keep evolving at Talladega’

Can Kurt Busch finally run for daylight at Talladega?

One Month Back: Key moments from NASCAR’s return

Corey LaJoie hopes feud with Denny Hamlin is over — but is it?

Leave a comment

Late Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra used to say, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

So, is the feud between Corey LaJoie and Denny Hamlin truly over?

LaJoie would like to think so – he’s already apologized twice and Hamlin has already said “I think we’re okay now.

But whether they truly are okay will likely be seen this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. When asked during a Zoom press conference Friday whether he’ll reach out to Hamlin in-person when they get to Alabama, LaJoie responded:

“I don’t know. Did I run my mouth a little bit more than what I probably should have? Yes. Did he do things that he probably regretted. Yes. That’s how we got into this situation. We are both grown-ups. We both have kids. We both have jobs and livelihoods that are bigger than this little tiff we have going on.

“We might think it’s bigger because there’s pride and ego involved, but at the end of the day he’s got his people he’s got to answer to and he’s got his mission of trying to win races and championships and I’ve got my mission of trying to do a good job for my team and eventually hopefully get a more competitive car and keep working my way up the ladder and everybody is on that same page.

“I personally learned a lot through what I went through. I learned a lot about myself. I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never really had to stick up for myself at a level like this. When I realized I was using the platforms that (the Motor Racing Network) and NASCAR in a sense, since they own MRN, they afford me the opportunity to have a podcast, which I love and I love to talk about this sport. I love talking about the ins-and-outs of it, the business of it, because I’ve grown up in it and I love it.

“But when I realized, and whether or not some people on my side can say I still have the right to say my side, but it turned into something where I didn’t feel like I was using my platform for positivity. There’s enough negativity in the world going on as we all can agree on, I certainly don’t want to aid any negativity, especially on my platforms, whether it be social media or SiriusXM radio or my podcast because that’s not who I am. I’m a fierce competitor. I stick up for what I believe in. I’m a friend to people who want to be friends with me and I’m trying to be a good dad and a good husband. That’s just what it is.”

NASCAR has spoken with both drivers and will likely be keeping tabs on them before, during and after Sunday’s race.

Last week we had a meeting when there was some things that came to a head that they had to address,” LaJoie, driver of the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang said. “Should I have let it die after that meeting? Probably so, but I didn’t. I felt like I was trying to breeze over it, trying to say there were some private messages exchanged, NASCAR had to get in the middle of it, we talked about it and moved on, and that’s kind of how I was trying to frame it up in my podcast.

“But then I, for whatever reason, I elaborated more on it than I should have and it ended up making a story. I think Denny and I can both agree that we were both in the wrong and I finally just had to eat it, whether or not I still had a leg to stand on in the argument. We moved on from what the original points of the argument was and that’s when I was like, ‘What in the hell are we doing here?’

“But it’s easy to get caught up in it. It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion. It’s easy to get from one point to the next point and not know how you got there in-between and be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I’m in a hole I can’t really get out of.’ NASCAR doesn’t patrol Twitter and they don’t call meetings because two people are beefing in their sub-tweets section. Stuff has to escalate to a point where if they were worried about it bleeding over onto the racetrack, and let’s hope it doesn’t.

“I’m probably talking about it more than I would be recommended to, but I just wanted to say my peace with it because as far as I’m concerned I said what I’ve said. I’ve apologized for what I feel bad for and now I just want to go to the racetrack and go racing.”

LaJoie said he is ready to put the whole incident behind him.

“I can sleep at night,” he said. “I think that it didn’t even get to a point where I still felt like I was in the wrong, per se, but it got to a point where I would listen to it back and I felt convicted about how I was handling it, whether or not it was tit-for-tat or whatever, and it just got to a point where I listened to myself back on what I was saying and how I was saying things that I was questioning who that guy was because that person that has been on the podcast the last week wasn’t who I was. That wasn’t how I treat people. That wasn’t what I call people.

“That wasn’t how I deal with issues, and I guess because I felt threatened or offended in a certain way, I felt like I had to act a certain way. Regardless of what was said by both sides, I finally got to a point where I was convicted to just stop it on my end. We didn’t come to a mutual agreement by any means. It was just a point where me personally I was over it. I was over carrying that burden of wanting to stick up for myself because I just want to drive a race car at the end of the day. When it changed from me sticking up for myself, when somebody else sub-tweeted all my stuff, when it morphed into me picking up stones and throwing them back, that’s when I had to listen to it back and I had to stop it.

“The thing that I really wanted to apologize for was calling the guy names. I don’t want anybody calling me names and I think that was childish, whether people can listen to the podcast and hear what I said, whether it be I called him two different things that I was disappointed in myself. I wasn’t apologizing for anything else.

“Sometimes I’m honest to a fault and sometimes I should leave things unsaid.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Brad Keselowski: ‘You have to keep evolving at Talladega’

Leave a comment

Even though he’s won at Talladega Superspeedway five times in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Brad Keselowski thinks “you (don’t) ever feel comfortable at Talladega.”

Why would the active leader in Cup wins at Talladega, including his first career win, not feel at ease when racing on NASCAR’s longest oval?

The ever revolving door of rules put in place at superspeedways by NASCAR is the primary reason.

“It changes almost every two or three years to where, quite honestly, your techniques and tactics have to completely evolve,” Keselowski said in a Zoom press conference Friday. “If you go back, you look at the plate races even three years ago, it’s completely different. I think you go back and look at the plate races from 20 years ago and, my goodness, those guys wouldn’t even know what they were looking at. I watch some of those races just because I think they’re really cool and fun, and I can’t even comprehend what’s going on because the racing was so much different, and the moves that worked or didn’t work were completely different.

“You have to keep evolving at Talladega. I don’t know if there’s a track on the circuit where the tactics evolve more rapidly and drastically year over year than Talladega, so you’ve just got to really try to stay on top of that and it’s a hard thing to do. Sometimes you can stay on top of the tactics and it doesn’t matter and you end up getting wrecked anyway, but it certainly is a challenging, challenging place.”

The next stage in driver evolutions at the Alabama track arrives Sunday (3 p.m. ET on Fox). The series will debut a new rules package, a result of changes made after Ryan Newman‘s wreck on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

Changes include:

  • Elimination of aero ducts at superspeedway tracks.
  • Reduction in size of throttle body from 59/64” to 57/64” (superspeedways only).
  • Slip tape must be applied along the entire length of the lower rearward facing surfaces of the rear bumper cover and extension (superspeedways only).

Keselowski said he’s “not sure what to expect” when the field takes the green Sunday, particularly without practice or qualifying beforehand.

“I think the list of changes was so big that I’m having a hard time anticipating how the cars are gonna drive,” Keselowski said. “Small variations in how the car drives can make a big difference as to how they draft, so it’s gonna be a lot of learning as we go in the race with having the stages and all that I’m sure everyone will adjust quite rapidly, but with respect to that I’m not sure what to expect enough to give it a real articulate answer. But I do know one thing, we don’t have to run over each other and wreck each other.”

When it comes to superspeedways, Keselowski is tired of wrecking. The Team Penske driver went off on teammate Joey Logano after he triggered a large wreck in February’s Busch Clash at Daytona.

At Talladega, Keselowski has finished 13th or worse in the last four races, including 33rd in 2018 and 25th last fall following wrecks.

“You hope everybody is smart and that they take chances, you have to take chances to learn,” Keselowski said. “But by the same token you hope they don’t take chances that are potentially lethal to everyone else’s day and causes big wrecks, but I can’t speak for everyone.

“Everybody has a different approach. It’s one of the great things about life is that we’re all different and on the racetrack it plays out. Everybody has different motivations, challenges, goals and they all kind of get thrown into this big pot at Talladega with no practice. We’ll see what happens.”

NASCAR America: Turning Point in Chase Elliott’s Talladega win

Leave a comment

Chase Elliott delivered big Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway for Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet by earning each its first Cup win of the year.

How that win came about is the subject of this week’s “Turning Point” segment on NASCAR America.

Steve Letarte, Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett analyzed the moment that resulted in Elliott’s first superspeedway win.

That moment began on the final restart with four laps to go as Joey Logano led the field down the backstretch.

An aggressive move by Kurt Busch moved Ricky Stenhouse Jr. into the middle lane and allowed him, Elliott and Alex Bowman to advance on Logano.

It was one Ford against a wave of Chevrolets.

It came to a head in Turns 3 and 4 when Busch moved up the track and Logano blocked, opening the door for Elliott to be pushed ahead of Logano by Bowman.

“Logano made an extremely aggressive block,” Burton said. “All you heard before the race was those kind of blocks would get you wrecked. … Really, I don’t think he had a choice. He had to block somebody and he had to make choice. He may have chosen the wrong line, but that was a difficult decision.”

Watch the full segment in the above video.